Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Time Twin

Read/Watch 'em in Order #87

The second tale in the August 1939 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories is the dryly humerous "The Time Twin," written by Lyle D. Gunn.

I like to think I'm fairly knowledgable about the history of science fiction, but I can't find a reference anywhere to the first time someone used the idea of parallel universes that are only slightly different than our own. It's a well-used cliche in the genre now. Everyone knows know, for instance, that if your twin from another universe has a goatee, then he's an evil twin. This is handy information to have.

But I'm not sure how common this was in 1939. "The Time Twin," though, explains the idea concisely and proceeds to have fun with it.

A physicist named Harry Steffens goes home one night to find his extra-dimensional twin in his house. After some initial confusion, the two Harrys figure out what's going on. One Harry is from another universe that is one day farther in the future than our Harry's universe. It's Saturday, May 8 here, but Sunday, May 9 over there. The other Harry was hit by lightning near a power plant and zapped into this reality. They realize that their respective timelines are nearly identical, though there are some differences.

How to handle this situation on the long-term is set aside when the two realize that the other Harry knows who won the Kentucky Derby. The two pool their money, bet on the long-shot who won in the other timeline and win a nice nest egg that our Harry can use to finally marry the girl he loves.

Except the other Harry also loves that girl--or at least he loves the girl from his universe, which he figures is close enough. So how does our Harry stop his identical twin from stealing his gal?

The story works on a "smile and occasionally chuckle" level rather than a "laugh out loud" level, but it tells the story well and has a lot of charm. After the somewhat flawed story we looked at last time, "The Time Twin" puts this issue back on an enjoyable track.

You can read this issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories HERE.

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